Knox, S. & Hill, C.E. (2021). Training and supervision in psychotherapy: What we know and where we need to go. In Barkham, W. Lutz, and L.G. Castonguay (Eds.) Bergin and Garfield’s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (7th ed.). Wiley. Chapter 10.
Supervision is a key aspect of training to be a mental health professional. There is also a gate-keeping role in that supervisors evaluate whether trainees are sufficiently competent to graduate and to seek credentialing or licensure. Most clinical supervision is either individual in nature (one supervisor and one trainee) but some training programs also employ a group supervision format. Despite a long history of supervision as a key training modality in psychotherapy, the research is surprisingly sparse and inconclusive about the utility of supervision. In this part of the chapter, Knox and Hill review some of the research on clinical supervision. The findings suggest that some supervisors are better at establishing a supervisory alliance with trainees than other supervisors. Supervisor traits that facilitate a supervisory alliance and other positive outcomes (supervisee satisfaction, insight, growth, increased confidence, enhanced work with clients; stronger supervision relationship) included supervisor openness, credibility, and capacity to maintain appropriate boundaries. Supervisor empathy, engaging in reflective practice, and attending to parallel process in supervision were associated with supervisee satisfaction, increased supervisee self-disclosure, reduced supervisee anxiety, and improved supervisee work with clients. On the other hand, supervisors’ errors in technique (minimal input in supervision, gender discrimination, nonadherence to ethical guidelines) were linked with supervisee discouragement, negative emotions, reduced involvement and satisfaction, and weaker supervisory alliances. Finally, a strong supervisory alliance (i.e., agreement on training goals, agreement on tasks of supervision, and the supervisory relational bond) is associated with reduced supervisee anxiety, increased supervisee self-disclosure and self-efficacy. Despite the positive effects on the trainee’s sense of competence, comfort, and self-efficacy, there is little research linking supervision to better patient outcomes.
The research suggests that the quality of the supervisory relationship has an impact on the supervisee and on the supervision process. Supervisors who are open, engaging, warm and empathic are more likely to engage supervisees to be self-disclosing and self-reflective in their work. Supervisors should focus on developing a solid supervisory alliance by establishing supervision goals (a collaborative agreement between supervisee and supervisor on the desired outcomes of the supervision), the tasks of supervision (how the supervision will proceed, what will be discussed or learned), and to help the trainee to experience supervision as a safe environment to explore new ways of being with their clients.